Taiwan admiral questioned over alleged China spy link

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese admiral has been questioned over his alleged involvement in one of the island's worst espionage cases, officials said on Monday, as concerns mount over Chinese infiltration of the military.

Defence ministry spokesman David Lo announced the admiral has come under investigation, but declined to provide details.

The Taipei-based Apple Daily said the admiral, whom it identified as Hsu Chung-hua, has been transferred from his position as the commander of fleet based in Penghu, an island group in the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

According to reports, the investigation is linked to the September arrest of three senior military officers suspected of leaking secrets to China, considered to be one of the most serious breaches in the island's history.

One of the officers arrested in the raid was Chang Chih-hsin, formerly a commander in charge of political warfare at the navy's Metoc (meteorology and oceanography) office which keeps highly classified maps and charts.

Military experts say that China could learn more about the operation of Taiwan's submarines if it obtained such information.

The latest probe has spurred concerns that despite eased tensions across the Taiwan Strait, China has not reduced its hostilities towards the island.

"As more ranking officers have been involved in such espionage cases over the last few years, we are afraid that China has infiltrated various levels of the military," legislator Tsai Huang-lang from the leading opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) told reporters.

Relations have improved markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links. He was reelected in January 2012 for a second and final four-year term.

But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

In July 2011 a Taiwanese army general lured by a honey trap into spying for China was jailed for life in one of the island's worst espionage cases for half a century.

The case prompted the Taiwanese government to order dozens of military officers serving abroad to return home for lie detector tests late last year.

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